Michael over, but death toll spikes to at least 14

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By J. Free­dom du Lac, Mark Ber­man, Dana Hedg­peth and Eli Rosen­berg

Hur­ri­cane Michael is no more. The vi­o­lent storm that ripped through the South­east, leav­ing a trail of death and de­struc­tion from Florida to Vir­ginia, fi­nally moved off the coast over the At­lantic Ocean overnight. It is now known as Post-Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Michael.

Michael made land­fall in the Florida Pan­han­dle on Wed­nes­day as a Cat­e­gory 4 hur­ri­cane — the strong­est on record to hit the area — and charged north through Ge­or­gia and into the Caroli­nas and Vir­ginia, wreak­ing havoc and caus­ing emer­gen­cies. In the storm’s wake lay crushed and flooded build­ings, shat­tered lives and the dead.

Au­thor­i­ties in North Carolina and Ge­or­gia con­firmed ad­di­tional deaths in those states, push­ing the num­ber of fa­tal­i­ties of­fi­cials have linked to the storm up to at least 14 peo­ple by Fri­day af­ter­noon.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said two peo­ple — a man and a woman — were killed in McDow­ell County when their car hit a large tree that had fallen on the road. State and lo­cal of­fi­cials pre­vi­ously said a man in the state was killed Thurs­day

when a tree fell on his car in Ire­dell County.

“We ex­tend our heart­felt sym­pa­thy to the loved ones

and friends of those killed,” Cooper said in a state­ment.

Mean­while, of­fi­cials in

Ge­or­gia con­firmed that a sec­ond life had been lost there, af­ter an 11-year-old girl in Semi­nole County was killed while in a mo­bile home when the wind hurled a metal car­port into the air. The Ge­or­gia Emer­gency Man­age­ment and Home­land Se­cu­rity Agency on Fri­day morn­ing said an­other per­son had died in the state. The agency de­clined to pro­vide ad­di­tional de­tails on the death be­yond say­ing it oc­curred in Wayne County.

In Gads­den County, Florida, the sher­iff’s of­fice said Thurs­day they had four “storm-re­lated fa­tal­i­ties fol­low­ing Hur­ri­cane Michael,” al­though they had only con­firmed the de­tails of one death: a man killed when a tree crashed through the roof of his home. A spokes­woman said the four deaths had been for­warded to the med­i­cal ex­am­iner’s of­fice, but ad­di­tional de­tails were not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

Au­thor­i­ties have warned that the storm’s death toll was likely to climb as they were able to head into the ar­eas — such as Mex­ico Beach, Florida — that en­dured par­tic­u­lar dam­age this week. FEMA Ad­min­is­tra­tor Wil­liam “Brock” Long said he be­lieved that the toll would in­crease, par­tic­u­larly as first re­spon­ders got into places like Mex­ico Beach.

“Un­for­tu­nately, I think you’re go­ing to see that num­ber climb,” Long said Fri­day morn­ing. “I hope we don’t see it climb dra­mat­i­cally.”

Long said the storm posed a di­rect threat to peo­ple who ig­nored warn­ings and evac­u­a­tion or­ders on the coast­lines, par­tic­u­larly given the threat of storm surge ca­pa­ble of tear­ing apart and flat­ten­ing build­ings.

“Very few peo­ple live to tell what it’s like to ex­pe­ri­ence storm surge,” he said.

Long asked peo­ple in the ar­eas di­rectly hit by the storm to be pa­tient for what is poised to be a long re­cov­ery, be­cause it will take time to as­sess the dam­age and con­front the de­struc­tion.

“This is go­ing to be a frus­trat­ing event,” he said. “It takes time to put things back to­gether.”

Five peo­ple are dead and one is still miss­ing in Vir­ginia af­ter the area was hit by Hur­ri­cane Michael. In Char­lotte County, three peo­ple be­came stranded in a ve­hi­cle on a bridge along Mt. Har­mony Road, ac­cord­ing to state po­lice.

When res­cuers ar­rived, they were cling­ing to the rail­ings of a bridge as high wa­ters sur­rounded them. A lo­cal sher­iff’s deputy saved a 17-year-old man us­ing a hu­man chain with law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, lo­cal res­i­dents and rope, of­fi­cials said, but a man and a woman — who po­lice said are re­lated to the teenager — were swept away. Res­cuers found the body of the man overnight and the woman is still miss­ing.

In Pitt­syl­va­nia County, a 45-year-old man died af­ter he was swept away from his ve­hi­cle. A sher­iff’s deputy and a lo­cal res­i­dent tried to res­cue James E. King Jr., state po­lice said, but the flood­wa­ters were too deep and too swift.

In Hanover County, a firefighter died and four oth­ers were in­jured, in­clud­ing three se­ri­ously, af­ter a trac­tor-trailer crashed into them as they tried to help with an­other crash in­volv­ing two ve­hi­cles along In­ter­state 295 out­side Me­chan­icsville, Vir­ginia.

And in Danville, two peo­ple died af­ter be­ing swept away by flood wa­ters. One man, Wil­liam Lynn Tanksley, 53, was swept from his ve­hi­cle dur­ing flash flood­ing at around 5 p.m. Thurs­day. An­other per­son, whom po­lice have not yet iden­ti­fied, was stranded in a car over­come by flood­ing at around 10:20 p.m.

Long, who plans to head to the area hit by the storm over the week­end, said that in Bay County, Florida — home to Mex­ico Beach — “it’s not safe to re­turn,” given the downed power lines and other de­bris lit­ter­ing the re­gion.

“Quite hon­estly, it’s a dan­ger­ous area to go back into,” he said.


A house in Mex­ico Beach, Florida, lies in ruin Thurs­day as a re­sult of Hur­ri­cane Michael.


Mem­bers of City of Mi­ami FireRes­cue look for vic­tims in a build­ing in Mex­ico Beach, Florida, in the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Michael on Fri­day.

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